The Joy of Grilling and Barbecue

Can you Reuse Charcoal and Grill with Used Charcoal?

Share this post

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. 

can you reuse charcoal
Reusing Old Charcoal

I have received a number of questions from readers along the lines of can you reuse charcoal to save money? This article will not only answer that question but will give you precise steps in words, images, and a YouTube video.

Old charcoal is oftentimes a wasted commodity if you grill with charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal like I do. Some people will simply toss them away after they have had their cooks but I learned a long time ago what to do with used charcoal and that you can certainly relight charcoal the next time you grill.

In this day and age, being able to conserve on anything, charcoal briquettes included, is the smart thing to do. Obviously, those briquettes need to be dry to reuse them so in my charcoal grill accessories article I stress the fact that I always use a Weber grill cover on all of my Weber grills.

Can you Reuse Charcoal to Save Money?

The simple answer is YES and I’ve been relighting charcoal for as long as I’ve been charcoal grilling. But there are certain steps you should take to ensure that you maximize the charcoal you’ve previously used and I’ll identify them below.

Steps to Reuse and Maximize Used Charcoal for Relighting

  1. When you are done grilling with charcoal shut the top and bottom vents immediately to maximize the charcoal you will save for the next cook. Never move them to another container if they are still hot. If you do, that other container could become another grill, the charcoal will continue to burn, and you may have just created a fire hazard.
  2. On the day of your subsequent cook there will be charcoal still in your grill sitting on the lower grate. This is the previously-lit charcoal you will be utilizing in addition to new charcoal for your new cook. The assumption is that the old charcoal is cool and this cook is at least 24 hours from your previous cook.
  3. Move the old charcoal around with a utensil or a scoop so that the small pieces fall through the bottom grate. Those pieces are too small to reuse.  After that you will be left with large enough pieces of old charcoal to relight.
  4. Grab your charcoal chimney starter. Pour some fresh charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal into the chimney starter. You have a couple of options here. You can either sandwich your older charcoal with new charcoal or simply eyeball how much old charcoal you have left and just add new charcoal to the bottom of the chimney starter and add the formerly-utilized charcoal above it. I typically use a plastic or metal scoop to load up the charcoal from your previous cook. If there is more space than you estimated at the top of the chimney starter, just add some fresh charcoal on top.
  5. At this point you have now efficiently reused old charcoal within your chimney starter. One thing you should remember is that after the chimney is lit, the level of the charcoal will be slightly lower than if you used totally fresh charcoal. You will quickly learn from experience.
  6. Add paper or Weber Lighter Cubes below the chimney starter, grab your torch lighter or a match, and kick off the charcoal lighting process!

So, if someone asks you what to do with used charcoal you’ll know what to tell them. I put together the above steps in pictures as well as a video that you can view below.

Step-by-Step Process for Reusing Old Charcoal in Pictures

Used charcoal
Leftover briquettes from previous cook
Ensure they are large enough
Larger pieces will stay on top of bottom grate
Filling the chimney starter
Fill chimney starter starting with new charcoal
reuse charcoal
Add the used or old charcoal
Sandwiching the old briquettes with new
Sandwich the old briquettes with new
Ready to roll!
Add fresh charcoal to the top
and you’re ready to roll!

The above steps are using a sandwich method by starting and ending with the fresh charcoal. You could just start with fresh charcoal and finish up with previously-used charcoal. Whatever works for you. Both methods work well!

My YouTube Video – Can I Grill with Used Charcoal Briquettes?

Here is a YouTube video I created to show how I reuse old charcoal each time I use my charcoal grill.

Can you Reuse Charcoal – a Summary

If someone asks you what to do with used charcoal, I hope it is crystal clear that you certainly can relight old charcoal in your subsequent cook. Saving money has always been a priority for me and charcoal grilling is also one of my priorities. Hand in hand, it made sense to me to maximize the use of the charcoal briquettes and lump charcoal that I pay for with my hard-earned money.

I hope this article has clearly given you the steps needed to efficiently maximize the charcoal from a previous cook so that you can always recycle and reuse the leftover charcoal. I love grilling with charcoal and I hope this article was informative. Happy charcoal grilling!

Sign up for Updates

Related Posts

Charcoal Grill Mats

What do you put under a Charcoal Grill on a Wood Deck?

Charcoal grilling on a wood deck is something that we have been doing for decades without …

Clean a Grill Grate FEATURE NEW2

When is the Best Time to Clean a Grill Grate?

I do my best to try to include as many grilling tips as possible on this …

How to Cook a Filet FEATURENEW2

How to Grill a Whole Fish Fillet on a Weber Grill

I’ve had a number of questions from readers on how to cook a whole fish fillet …

13 Comments

  • Great idea to reuse the charcoal. Does seem obvious now that you made me think about it, but I usually just empty my little Weber before starting my next grill session. What a waste! I’ll try it this weekend. Thanks Bob!

    Reply
    • Hi Todd,
      Sorry I missed your comment. Yes, more often than not I fill about 1/2 of my chimney starter with formerly-used charcoal. Why waste your money? Glad I could help Todd!

      Best,
      Bob

      Reply
  • Just found this site and enjoy reading it. My question is which is better ..briquettes or lump. I have read that briquettes are put together using glues which can affect the taste. Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Tom,
      Thanks for your question! I typically use Kingsford charcoal briquettes which definitely do not emit any odors or negative taste to the food I am grilling. I am a big fan of lump charcoal as well but they do burn really hot but not as long as the Kingsford briquettes. I use both but I use the briquettes more often! Happy 4th and keep on grilling!

      Please check out my youtube channel as well.

      Best,
      Bob

      Reply
  • Bob

    I have been using my briquettes over for quite some time now. I get them by shutting all the vents on my Weber Kettle grill when I’m done grilling. I let them go out and collect them next time I’m going to grill. I will store them in an old briquette bag-just make sure they really are out!

    One thing I have noticed when relighting them in the charcoal chimney: It takes much longer to get a fully lit chimney when it contains used briquettes. I am thinking it is caused by a reduced flow of air through the coals due to the tighter packing of the smaller used briquettes. I will often add more paper under the lit chimney when having a mixture of used and new briquettes-this helps getting a faster light. Mixing the two sizes evenly may help a lot. I have not tried this yet.

    I have started just adding lit full sized coals on top of unlit used coals. This works.

    Reply
    • Hi Jerry,
      I was going through some older comments and noticed I hadn’t responded to you on this question. I am sooo sorry as I try to respond within a day. I think you’re right that with used charcoal they may take longer to light but I always mix with new charcoal because I never have enough used charcoal for the chimney starter. Yes, tighter packing of the older charcoal could be causing the lack of airflow as you mentioned. When I smoke meats in my smoker I always lay unlit charcoal first in my firebox and then throw the lit charcoal on top, like you say that you do. They will eventually catch especially when you start adding the wood chunks for the smoking process. I hope your grilling/smoking season is going well Jerry!

      Best,
      Bob

      Reply
    • Yup, that’s typically what I do. I usually start with the new charcoal and then include the old charcoal on top or I could sandwich it as you suggest. All I know is that it certainly prolongs the length of my charcoal to use the old briquettes that are still large enough. Thanks!

      Reply
  • Do you like to sit out and have Mosquitos? Just light old briauettes and add some small pieces of wook and let it smoke..It does help

    Reply
    • Hi Emma,
      Thanks for your input and for dropping by. Luckily my grills/smoker is on a deck about 10 feet up in the air so the mosquitoes aren’t that bad at altitude. But go down to my yard and they are horrible! That’s a good tip and thank you very much. 🙂

      Best,
      Bob

      Reply
  • According to the internet. Charcoal only stays hot for an hour. If you mix new and used charcoal, don’t you run the risk of cold spots?

    Reply
    • Hi,
      I wouldn’t think so because you are still using the charcoal chimney starter as you typically would and waiting for all of the charcoal (old and new) to become engulfed. So I cannot imagine there would be cold spots if you wait until flames are shooting out the top of the chimney starter. Thanks for your comment!

      Best,
      Bob

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The 10 Most Underrated Grilling Tips

187178201 969146577169632 5540880230217979934 n

Top Sellers

Advertisements

Sign up for Updates

Disclosure: We typically use and test the products we review. It is possible we will create an informational article about a product that has been recommended to us that we have not yet used. If so, this will be clearly stated in the article. If the review is associated with one of our advertisers, this will be explicitly stated at the top of the article. We will receive a commission if you purchase any product described here through one of our links but this will not affect our review in any manner whatsoever.